Although the switch to a new bus company presented a tough first week fof school for Bedford Central, district officials stated that the situation has improved.
“For the opening of school, we had what I would consider to be a typical rough opening for a company that’s new to the district," Mark Betz, assistant superintendent for business, told the school board at its Wednesday meeting.
The quality is going up now, he explained.
“However, about 99 percent of them are back on target,” Betz said, adding that they need to be at 100 percent. He anticipates that the company, Towne Bus Corp., will reach that goal by next week.
The district opted to hire Towne, which is based on Long Island, for a 5-year deal effective for this school year. Prior to that, the district included a contract with for two-thirds of its busing, with the remainder done in-house. The switch to 100-percent contracted busing was proposed for the 2012-13 budget
Betz noted that during his tenture he has seen four bus companies work for the district and that this “has been a rough opening for a number of our runs.”
The problems were not district-wide, he told Patch, being more concentrated in the eastern area of the district, such as Pound Ridge.
“They were isolated," he said.
Challenges for the Pound Ridge area are geographic in nature. With a distance going into the 7-mile range from the Fox Lane campus, Betz explained that any delays involving buses at Fox Lane can slow them down when they proceed to Pound Ridge for subsequent elementary school work. Additionally, the district consolidated bus routes in the eastern part of the district, which means longer trips.
Board member Erika Long, herself a Pound Ridge resident, brought up communications problems between drivers and dispatchers. Betz replied that there were issues with communication. He explained that Towne has two dispatch locations locally, while the district has one on campus. Some communication wasn't getting to drivers, he said, while other drivers were able to communicate back. He cited mechnical problems as contributing, with things that worked well during practices but failed at the start of the year.
Betz also noted that there is a difference between summer practice runs, which have light traffic, and schools actually operating. He also acknowledged that glitches hindering communication can create anxiety for parents, but also told the board that every student was safe.
Board members who weighed in on the issue seemed assured by the update. Betz also felt that Towne wants to get things right.
"This is a team effort. They want this to be 100 percent right, too.”